Archive for July, 2008
Man’s best friend is in a lot of ways just like us. Sometimes they seem like little people and with good reason. They have been living in such close proximity to for so long that it goes to figure that they have developed some of our habits and tastes. You don’t have to throw a barbeque to know that a dog will come a-running when there is good food on the table. Give you dog a treat that will be good to eat as well as a treat that will help with the dog’s overall health. Dog treats are now available for the discerning dog.
Dogs are the incontrovertibly the absolute epitome of unconditional love. They come when you call. They comfort you when you are sick. They play with you everyday as though it were the last. So treat them with a dog treat every once in a while to show that you notice you tiny pooch and everything that is special about him.
Treatment of Bad Breath
1) Yearly Checkups
Even if you do not give yearly booster vaccinations it is wise to take your pet to a veterinarian yearly to get a general checkup that includes a dental exam. The older your pet is the more important early exams become.
To retard the formation of plaque feed your pet a name brand dry commercial pet food. The crunchy biscuits help massage gums and wear away tartar. Some brands, like Friskys, market dental diets engineered to minimize plaque and massage the gums. Other brands incorporate enzymes to dissolve plaque. One of the worst things you can do to your pet’s teeth is to feed canned diets. The build up of plaque in pets fed soft, canned diets is very rapid. In a Duke University study, it was found that feeding cow tracheas (windpipes) with a little meat attached kept dogs teeth in great condition. Other investigations in research dog colonies fount that feeding oxtails once a week prevented serious periodontal disease.
Feeding chewy treats (like cow ears), bones, rawhide and treats impregnated with enzymes minimize dental plaque. Nylon bones work equally as well if the pet accepts them.
If you give your pet real bones be sure they are heavy shin and shank bones. Dogs and cats do better chewing on bones if they start when they are puppies and kittens. Do not give your pet chicken bones.
4) Brushing teeth
Brushing your pet’s teeth is the most important thing you can to maintain healthy teeth and gums. Use a child’s toothbrush and meat or malt favored toothpaste designed for animals. Use a very small amount of toothpaste – it is the brushing that is important – and concentrate on the gum margins. . If you start when your pet is a puppy or kitten the pet will not dislike the procedure. Even older pets learn to accept the toothbrush.
5) Mouth wash and sprays
Veterinary hospitals and pet supply out lets sell chlorhexidine sprays and mouthwashes that contain enzymes that dissolve plaque and help reduce bacteria. They are not nearly as effective as brushing the teeth but are better than no home care.
Manual tartar removal
If your pet has a placid temperament it is not difficult to scrap the tartar from the teeth and clean under the margins of the gums at home. Many pet professionals perform excellent tooth cleaning at home eliminating the need to have their pet anesthetized at a veterinary clinic. Your veterinarian or a pet supply catalog is a good source for a tartar-scraping tool. The best ones are double ended, one end suitable for the right and the other for the left hand side of the mouth.
Because the whine of the ultrasonic machine is distressing to most animals, this procedure is performed with general anesthetic or heavy tranquilization. Since it is often older patients, many of whom have heart disease, that need the procedure, I keep them under very light anesthetic.
Removal of diseased teeth
Once the ligaments that fasten teeth to the bone of the jaw have been damaged by periodontal disease ultrasonic cleaning will not heal them. Mildly loose teeth can sometimes be preserved by cleaning and several weeks of doxycycline therapy either with oral tablets or oral patches. Severely loose teeth are best removed. Dogs and cats do very well with few remaining teeth. Problems are more in the minds of owners due to fear than to any difficulties experienced by the pets.
Some veterinarians and dentists specialize in crowns for damaged pet teeth. Other than for attack dogs, this is a purely cosmetic procedure satisfying the owner, not the pet. I suggest you spend the money on your pets in other ways – such as a trips with your pet to the country or the park and contributions to your local Humane Society.
Other Causes of Bad Breath
Immature pets that are in the process of shedding their “baby” teeth often drool and have bad breath. This is a transient problem. Some times it is accompanied by fever. Brushing these pets’ mouths with a dilute baking soda solution gives them relief and minimizes the odor. If the pet is hesitant or fight too much during brushing, try giving them a chewable to treat like pig ears to help get rid of some of the tartar.
In older pets, disease of the kidneys and liver often affect the mouth. These pets are often thin and frail. When I suspect that a pet with halitosis has major organ failure I run diagnostic liver enzyme levels as well as blood urea nitrogen and creatinine levels to check kidney function. Pets with organ damage require extra special care when tending to their teeth. Anesthesia during dental prophylaxis must be administered lightly and with special care. Often I place these pets on antibiotics after I clean their teeth as well as on special diets engineered to help failing organs.
When I see young cats with strong breaths and dental disease I screen them for feline leukemia as well as feline immunodifficiency disease (feline aids). When they are negative for these diseases, they often have resorptive dental disease in which deep cavities form in many teeth simultaneously for no apparent reason. In resorptive dental disease, the roots of the canine teeth are often exposed. Often incisor teeth in these cats drop out for no apparent reason. It is unclear if these cats are born with soft susceptible teeth or if another undescribed form of dental disease is present. Cleaning the teeth of cats with resorptive dental disease is not very effective. Eventually, these teeth need to be extracted. When this is done these cats go on to lead happy and healthy lives.
Problems Associated With Tooth and Gum Disease
As kidney and liver disease can lead to dental disease; dental disease can lead to disease of the kidney and liver. Tartar accumulation around the teeth allows harmful bacteria to proliferate. These bacteria occasionally break loose and enter the pet’s circulation. Once in the blood stream, they lodge in crevices with the kidneys and liver and on the valves of the heart. Liver inflammation as well as scarred, poorly functioning kidneys are the result of bacteria lodging in these organs. When the heart valves are attacked by bacteria they shrink and scar causing blood to flow in the wrong direction. This is why it is common for dogs and cats with severe dental disease to have heart murmurs. It is not unusual for these murmurs to go away once the pet’s dental problems are treated.
Dogs and cats with chronic dental problems often drool. This wetness and the infection associated with tooth infections may cause the lips and the skin folds surrounding the lips to become inflamed. Once the teeth are cleaned these problems resolve.
Tooth and gum problems are the most common medical condition I see in pets. Because bad breath in dogs and cats go hand in hand with other health problems it is best to treat this problem even if the breath is not objectionable to you.
Why does my pet have bad breath?
The most common cause of bad breath is tartar buildup surrounding the teeth. As in people, small particles off food remain in the mouth after eating. These particles decompose creating conditions where oral bacteria thrive. These bacterial grow to form plaque which is a combination of bacteria, mineral and decomposed food. Plaque and associated oral infections give the pet’s breath an objectionable odor. Plaque also clings to the base of teeth causing the gums to become inflamed and recede. Inflamed gums leak blood serum with combines with and increase the amount of plaque. This plaque or calculus is visible as a hard yellowish coating on the outer base of the teeth.
Remarkably, pets with this condition rarely eat less. Early in the disease, the plaque is no more than a thin b rownish or yellowish coating on the sides of the teeth. It is most noticeable on the outer (lateral) surface of the larger molar teeth – the side adjacent to the cheeks and lips. In severe cases the margins where teeth and gums meet become highly inflamed and bleed when they are touched.
For reasons we do not understand, these problems are most severe in toy and smaller breeds of dogs and in purebred cats. Maltese have the highest rate of tooth and gum disease of all breeds.
This buildup of calculus causes the gum margins to recedes past the tooth enamel exposing the softer dentine material that covers the tooth roots. Dentine is much more porous and rougher than enamel and so holds infection in place. Once dentine is exposed periodic tooth care must be done more frequently and the teeth are eventually lost. This is why successful tooth care and good dental hygiene needs to begin early before these processes are advanced. Another great, non-evasive remedy, is giving the dog plenty of chewable dog treats, like lamb ears. The constant chewing action helps to remove the tarter and plaque that builds up on the dog’s teeth.
The main objective of treatment of a phobia is to teach the animals that the stimulus it is frightened of can be associated with something good, such as a reward. This is often easier said than done, requiring persistence and patience. The most important thing to keep in mind is that you must not reinforce fearful behaviour by petting, reassuring, or rewarding the animal (by giving him dog treats like bully sticks).
The approach to any type of fear is the same in principle. The first step to treatment is to identify what the stimulus is and when it occurs. When the trigger has been identified, attempt to avoid all encounters with this if possible. If your dog is afraid of thunderstorms, start your training at a time of year where they are less likely to occur, such as the winter. The next step is to desensitize the animal and teach relaxation in the presence of the stimulus. This must be done slowly and systematically. If the dog is fearful of unfamiliar people, ask a friend to help with training. Place the dog in a crate and ask the friend to enter the room but keep a great enough distance that the dog remains calm. Reward the dog for good behaviour with food or affection. The unfamiliar person can attempt to desensitize the dog by throwing food from a distance, avoiding eye contact, and approaching sideways. Gradually, over the course of several training sessions, ask the friend to approach closer each time to a distance in which the dog can remain calm. Remember to only reward calm, relaxed behaviour and not to reinforce inappropriate reactions. The animal should slowly learn to associate the stimulus with good things, such as treats, resulting in a less fearful response.
The prognosis for successful treatment is dependent on several factors, including age, duration of the fearful behaviour, and the owner’s diligence with training. Generally, the younger the age of onset and the longer the duration, the less chance there is of correcting the behaviour. That is not to say, however, that correction is impossible. Again, it is important to be able to recognize the triggers and be patient throughout the training process. With appropriate training, an animal can learn to be relaxed in the presence of previously frightening situations.
How do I stop it?
In all cases, reducing temptation is the quickest solution. Scoop your yard frequently, keep Fido on a short leash in that poop-riddled park, and put the cat box out of reach. The kitty litter may need to be moved onto a higher surface or put in a room with a baby gate. A covered cat box might be all that is needed if the dog is much larger than the cat.
Quite often, a change to a high quality, high protein, low carbohydrate and low fat diet will do the trick. Also, by giving him plenty of healthy dog treats like pig ears, this is another possible solution to reduce the temptation. Commercially available additives are sold in pet stores that claim to make poop less palatable. Many owners find that a teaspoon of canned spinach, pineapple, or a little meat tenderizer works equally well.
Some owners will sprinkle hot sauce or pepper onto the poop in the yard (not on the food!). Keep in mind that Fido can easily sniff out which poops are booby-trapped, so this method might not work as well for dogs that prefer to “eat out” while on walks. Of course it makes sense to get advice from your veterinarian or trainer for help in solving this issue if you cannot.
Although you may wish to train your dog not to use some areas of your house or yard as a toilet, never scold your dog for defecating. Promptly remove him to an appropriate location and praise him when he gets it right. Don’t scold him for poop-eating, either, as even negative attention can be seen as a reward. If stress is the reason for your dog’s new habit, hopefully an end to the stress will result in an end to the habit.
Above all, remember that your dog is performing a behaviour that is natural, and even rewarding to him: to a dog, potentially delicious. Punishment is not always enough to counteract his instincts, and can sometimes reinforce them. Removal of temptation and reward for preferred behaviours are always your best training tools.
Is it harmful?
On the whole, the biggest consequence of coprophagia is that we humans find it revolting. A dog eating its own poop is unlikely to have any harmful effects. Many owners worry about infectious diseases, but most healthy, vaccinated dogs are at a low risk for picking up illnesses this way. Snacking indiscriminately on neighbourhood poop does increase a dog’s chances of picking up worms (especially if there are cats that hunt in the area), but a standard preventative and treatment program will keep this from affecting your dog’s health. For example, many heartworm medications will also kill some types of intestinal worms, and fecal screening for intestinal parasites should be done twice a year at your vet’s office. Keep in mind that your dog will probably be exposed to most parasites in your community whether he is actually taste-testing or just sniffing around.
Something that is of concern when dogs eat cat poop is that they might end up regularly swallowing a side of kitty litter, which is serious in large quantities, especially if the absorbent (clumping) litter expands in the gut. A dog with a belly full of kitty litter can sometimes become severely ill and might end up at the vet with vomiting or diarrhea. The consumed cat litter can be difficult to remove even with surgery, as it can scatter throughout the digestive tract.
For a quick method, try giving him alternatives to those nasty “outdoor snacks”. Try throwing some dog treats near the poop, like pig ears, and see if he’ll prefer those instead.
Poop-eating (coprophagia) is generally a natural behaviour in dogs but unfortunately one that can be more than a little disgusting. Let’s face it, dogs are renowned for their flexible palates, and to them, poop is just another taste sensation. Frozen feces, or poopsicles, are an especially alluring snack. Puppies are the most frequent culprits, and owners take heart, they will usually grow out of this habit with a few precautionary measures. Dogs over one year old that have developed this habit can be a little harder to discourage.
Why do they do it?
Dogs are hard-wired to explore any and all potential food resources in their environment. This is especially true of puppies. Feces is very similar in texture to the regurgitated food they got from mom. Breeding females, as well, are naturally inclined to do their own “scooping” as they would normally clean up after their pups in the den. In addition, most dogs feel some urge to keep their territory or den clean, especially if they have been scolded for leaving a mess before. For some dogs, it is also a way to garner attention from an owner or to alleviate stress.
A poor quality diet or one that a dog is unable to digest easily might encourage your dog to give his poop a second round, so make sure hes getting plenty of protein in his diet. One way to make sure he is getting plenty of protein in his diet, is to feed him protein filled dog treats, like pig ears. In households where both dogs and cats are present, dogs may eat cat feces. Cat feces is more nutritious than dog feces, since cats are less efficient at digesting their food. Cat food is also higher in protein than dog food and so cat poop contains many extra nutrients. That being said, there are some cases when coprophagia indicates a greater health problem, such as pancreatic insufficiency, specific nutrient deficiencies, or plain old starvation. A dog that is eating a lot of food can still starve if the food is missing important nutrients. In these cases the dog will lose weight or develop other symptoms over time.